Dozens of Afghan families held funerals Sunday, a day after three bombs were detonated outside a school in Kabul, killing at least 68 people and injuring another 165 victims.
According to an eyewitness, nearly all of the victims were girls leaving the building at the conclusion of the school day. Boys attend classes in the morning and girls in the afternoon.
“Countless girls were lying down on the street in blood, some were motionless and many more were screaming from injuries,” said one local resident to The Guardian. “I did not know what to do, where to start.”
Explosions on Saturday evening shook the neighbourhood of Dasht-e-Barchi, home to a large community of Shiites from the Hazara ethnic minority which has been targeted in the past.
A car bomb was detonated in front of the Sayed Al-Shuhada school and two more bombs exploded when students rushed out in panic.
“I was with my classmate, we were leaving the school when suddenly an explosion happened, ” said 15-year-old Zahra, who suffered a broken arm.
Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani on Saturday “blamed Taliban insurgents,” but a spokesperson for the group, which has sought to overthrow the foreign-backed government since being ousted from power in 2001, “denied involvement and condemned any attacks on Afghan civilians,” Reuters noted.
The Taliban “insisted they have not carried out attacks in Kabul since February last year, when they signed a deal with Washington that paved the way for peace talks and withdrawal of the remaining U.S. troops,” The Guardian reported. “But the group has clashed daily with Afghan forces in the rugged countryside even as the U.S. military reduces its presence.”
Although the U.S. was supposed to have pulled out all of its forces by May 1, President Joe Biden pushed the date back to September 11, a move that prompted the Taliban to forego 10 days of United Nations-led peace talks last month.
Latifah, a resident of the neighborhood whose elementary-aged daughters escaped the attack, told Al Jazeera that whoever is behind the bombing has achieved their motive of discouraging children from going to school.
“My girls cried all night last night, waking up saying, ‘Don’t send us to school, school is where you die,'” she said. “Yesterday, it was really education that died in Afghanistan.”
Christopher Nyamandi, the Afghanistan country director for Save the Children, said that “it’s appalling that this has happened.” He emphasized that “schools should be safe havens for children, not zones of war.”